The Spaniard turned coach for the day and offered invaluable advice to students seeking a career in the sports industry, before handing out gifts of his book, in true style of the festive event. Three Kings Day, or Los Tres Reyes Magos, is celebrated on 6th January to honour the day the Three Wise Men gave gifts to Baby Jesus.
During the visit Juan met 50 young men and women, aged 16+, who are taking the course to learn coaching skills whilst receiving opportunities of work experience within the sports industry. The Foundation and the college have worked in partnership since October 2017, with the vision of creating a Centre of Excellence in Sport.
“It’s always nice to come and meet young men and women who want to learn about football but also about life,” said Juan. “Obviously the Foundation helps many young people, so it’s always a pleasure to come and play some football with them, speak with them and tell them that once I was one of them, trying to be a football player but trying to study, too.”
After taking part in a coaching session, Juan happily answered questions from the students, before giving out copies of his recently released book and signed them for the students.
Simeon, 18, said: “Just seeing Juan, and for him to take time out of his day to come and spend time with us, was amazing. He gave us good advice and told us how he tries to play in his game. In the future I want to continue in my studies and see how I go with football. I’ve really embraced today and I’ll be reading Juan’s book as soon as I get home.”
Joe Duckett, BTEC Football coach at the Salford college, underlined the importance of such a visit from an international footballer like Mata – not just on the students enrolled but on the prestige of the college and the course. He said: “The partnership between Manchester United Foundation and the college is so important. First and foremost it gets students through the door; it’s a huge pull as the badge always is. Of course we deliver football but also we’re helping them with their studies and preparing them for life after college, whether that’s in sport or a different career.
“For Juan to come on the pitch and pass on some football messages to the students today has been a great experience. But more importantly is for them to see Juan and the way he carries himself, his behaviour, the way he speaks – he’s been brilliant with the students.”
Juan gave plenty of encouragement to those studying the BTEC, and did it all with a smile on his face. He concluded: “My key piece of advice to them was to keep going and believing in themselves and some of them will make it in football. But I think it’s always important to have a plan B, which is to try to keep studying, but also just to enjoy what you do, whether that’s football or something different. They have challenges ahead of them but they have to keep going and believing in themselves.”